Minecraft will launch an education edition of Minecraft By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor
19 January 2016
An "education version" of Minecraft is to be launched by Microsoft.
The product will offer teachers new ways to utilize the world-building video game in many different subjects.
In 2014, Microsoft paid $2.5bn (PS1.8bn), for Mojang Minecraft, Minecraft's Swedish creator. It also purchased the four-year-old MinecraftEdu game from TeacherGaming, a Finnish independent developer.
It's possible to add features now however, schools may face additional costs.
It is believed that Minecraft is used in more than 7,000 classrooms across the globe.
"Teachers are using Minecraft to do so many things, such as teaching science, math poetry, religion, and more," Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's vice-president of worldwide education, told the BBC.
"Once we make the tools easier for schools to gain access to and employ I believe you'll see that number [of classrooms] increase very quickly."
MinecraftEdu already lets teachers modify content within the game and use an education-related library that is shared assets.
Microsoft promises to enhance user experience through:
Children's characters to retain their character traits between sessions
Students can take "photos" of themselves using an in-game camera, and then storing them in an online journal with their notes. They can be used to teach other students or by teachers to assess their performance.
Children can download software that lets them continue playing Minecraft educationally outside of school. They don't need to buy the game.
Teachers and children must have their own Office 365 ID to access the service. This ID can also be used to get access to the cloud-based productivity software offered by Microsoft.
Microsoft claims that this will allow teachers to manage fewer online accounts they have to manage.
It could also help the company promote its word processing, email, and file-sharing applications over rival services offered by Google and others.
Microsoft intends to charge a per-year fee of $5 (PS3.50) for each teacher and child.
This could be more expensive than the current basic set-up, where schools pay a one-off fee of $14 multiplied by the maximum number of users they want to be able to log in at once in addition to an additional $41 for server software.
Deirdre Qarnstrom, director for Minecraft education, said that "we believe that we are adding value".
"In addition to having a permanent identity they will also be able to access the most recent version of the game.
"MinecraftEdu as well as other Minecraft mods, was one to two releases behind due to the development process.
"We are also replacing the requirement for schools to purchase and maintain separate server hardware."
The new features were well-loved by Leigh Wolmarans, the head teacher of Lings Primary School in Northampton.
The school he works at uses MinecraftEdu to teach its students about A Midsummer Night's Dream. He asked students to create a Shakespeare-inspired play within MinecraftEdu.
He said that other teachers should be aware of the limitations of the software.
"Technology can result in exceptional learning, but it needs to be used in combination with other tools," the professor said.
"If all you're doing is taking them to a table and leaving them to experience Shakespeare through Minecraft, you would be doing something wrong.
"Dance art and drama are the best ways to teach children.
"But technology can enhance the toolbox as an additional tool."
Microsoft has announced that it will allow teachers to "beta-test" Minecraft's education edition for free at some point during the summer months, prior to its official launch.
Minecraft was used to teach chemistry
5 November 2015
The schools using Minecraft in the classroom.
20 June 2014
Lings Primary School